Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rubber stamps

President Obama, following Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's advice, is not letting a crisis go to waste. When people are driven into a panic, they will grab hold of any rope thrown to them, no matter what that rope is tied to. The rope being thrown to them right now is tied to a watered down version of socialism. For all the trillions of borrowing and spending, the government takeover of major banks, the takeover of the auto industry and his proposed control of the health care system, it would seem the President is hell bent on steering the nation hard to the left. He is not alone; you should know the Democrats who control Congress have been paving that trail for almost three years.

Most Americans do not understand the processes of a divided government. They do not understand how an idea becomes a bill, and how that bill becomes a law. Most Americans think the President controls the nation, writes the laws and Congress holds hearings and makes speeches that no one listens to. For everyone who hated George W. Bush with a burning passion, the day Barack Obama was sworn in was the day Democrats took control of the country. They are mistaken; the day the Democrats took control of our nation was almost two years earlier.

The 2006 elections swept the Democrats into power. The scandals of Republicans in Congress and their years of overspending left many conservatives disheartened and many independents angry. The conservatives stayed home, and the independent voters wanted a change. Those two factors, along with a war in Iraq that we were told could never be won, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, formed a fulcrum with which the Democrats leveraged the nation to the left. We have been in this liberal or "progressive" mode for almost three years, and what a three-year run it has been.

With the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi and the Senate controlled by Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats began their "new era" of government. All the rhetoric of transparency and bipartisanship was left on the campaign trail as the Democrats in Congress steamrolled their agenda through committees and onto the President's desk. While President Bush did not sign every piece of legislation that passed Congress, he was a lame duck and only used his veto power 11 times during the last two years of Democratic control.

With the inauguration of President Obama, the Pelosi and Reid now have a rubber stamp awaiting every spending bill they can muscle through Congress. They don't need much muscle in the House, and they only need to turn one Republican to get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

Using political power to get their way, punishing opponents and paying off legislators for key votes has been taken to a new level under the leadership of Pelosi and Reid. These two, along with the Chicago political machine that came into power with President Obama, have formed a stranglehold on legislative process. They control what bills are written, what amendments to those bills get a vote, and how long the members of congress get to look at the bill before they are brought to the floor for a vote.

Take this past week's Climate and Energy bill for example. No matter what the President and Congressional Democrats tell you, this bill could be the largest tax increase in American history. Why would anyone vote for a bill that raises taxes on everyone who uses gasoline and electricity? Why would they vote for a bill that will destroy millions of real manufacturing jobs and promises to replace them with fictional green jobs? Why would you vote for a job-killing, energy tax while in the heart of a recession? Why? Because no one has read the bill.

I am serious; while the House was debating the bill, the Democratic leadership slipped in an additional 300 pages to the 1,100-page bill at 3:05 AM and then called for a vote. No one had even read the original 1,100 pages of legislation, but to slip in 300 pages of who knows what, you get the idea that Democrat's calls for transparency, accountability and openness is just empty talk, or worse.

In a week where the cable news channels have all turned into 24-hour versions of Entertainment Tonight, I did not see much news coverage of this far-reaching piece of legislation. I saw a parade of has-been celebrities and anchors talking about Michael Jackson's death. Nancy Pelosi just went to the mattresses to get this trillion dollar, job-killing bill through the House and we get wall to wall clips of the one-gloved wonder.

It actually makes sense, we get the government we deserve, and it seems America deserves the bunch we have in power right now. So don't worry what is in those 300 extra pages slipped into the bill at 3AM, it probably doesn't affect you. That is unless you buy gasoline, pay for electricity, have a job in manufacturing, or pay taxes. Go back to watching Larry King play reruns of Michael Jackson's greatest videos. No need to worry, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama have everything under control. Right?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Being the dad you wished you had

As I sit down to my keyboard with a cup of coffee on the Father's Day morning, I want to touch on what it means to be a father. Not just the nuts and bolts of being a parent but also learning about where your idea of being a dad came from.

For me, as with most men, the only real example of fatherhood growing up came from watching my father. My father was old school. Born in 1915, he was 52 when I was born. He grew up in the heart of the great depression, rode a horse to school, and worked harder as a teenager than most anyone does today. To say that my father was a strong authority figure is an understatement.

He was tough as nails, I don't think I can remember him being sick once. He had the kind of handshake that would make you cry uncle from years of working his family's farm after his father died when he was 17. Like so many men from that generation, he had to be a man at a very young age.

I loved my father, but he scared the Hell out me. He taught me to swim by throwing me in the creek at the ranch. He gave me a single shot .410 shotgun and .22 rifle when I was ten years old. No instruction, no safety lecture, just a firearm and box of cartridges. He taught me how to operate a D-8 bulldozer by telling me to get up there and drive it, at age twelve. I was chasing cows through rough country on horseback since I can remember. The fact that I survived my childhood is a miracle of Old Testament proportions.

I could tell at times he was taking it easy on me, and I spent plenty of time playing outside on the ranch with my dog or fishing at the pond. My father did have a softer side, but it was hard to find, especially because of his alcohol abuse. People who knew me when I was a wild, and I mean wild young man, ask me why I quit drinking, I tell them the idea of my children seeing me drunk frightens me to death.

When I look back on my father's example of being a dad, I realize that his father was even tougher. A saddle bronc champion, a teamster -not truck driver, 40 mules pulling a combine teamster- and he died when my father very young. For all his faults, and I am not excusing them, my father did not grow up under easy circumstances. His tough, early years shaped him as a man and as a father.

I wonder why some fathers are able to break the generational examples of fatherhood and choose to be the dad they wished they had growing up. For me, I found that my faith was a big influence. When I began to understand my relationship with God, when I understood His forgiveness, I was able to forgive my father for his faults. I began to understand what real love looks like, and I started trying to use His example of fatherhood. This in a work in progress. I wish a had the last 15 years back to try again. Not that I don't love my kids just as they are, but because there were so many times when I lost my temper or made poor decisions as they grew up.

I know that there are some great fathers out there, and some men who have two or three generations of loving, caring examples of fatherhood to emulate. I also know that most of us do not. Some men did not have a father in their home growing up, and are trying to figure out fatherhood from square one.

While I understand that we are shaped by our childhood and our examples of parenting, we are not slaves to it. We have the ability to change. It is never too late to start, never. Even if you think you may have irreparably screwed up your children, you can change the father you are to them right now. You may have to deal with some tough situations, it might be a very painful process, but you can still be a positive influence on your children. If your children are in diapers or if they have children of their own, as a father, you owe it to them to be the dad you wish you had.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Playing favorites

Having written a piece on the upcoming health care debate at my blog this week, I thought I would be done with the subject for a while. I was mistaken.

Tuesday morning, it was announced that ABC News will broadcast a health care town hall program from the White House with President Obama. The studio audience for the town hall? Handpicked by the folks at ABC. Not only will ABC be turning its programming over to the Obama administration for this prime time special, the network will also be running health care specials on its Good Morning America, World News Tonight and Nightline shows.

While I understand that the upcoming health care debate is one of the President's priorities, I was under the assumption that the news media was supposed to be a neutral party when it comes to policy. So much for that theory. This state sponsorship of a news cycle seems to borrow a page right out of Hugo Chavez's playbook. I cannot seem to remember a broadcast network working side by side with a Presidential to deliver his message straight to the public, excluding opposing voices on the debate.

I know that the progressives out there will immediately bring up Fox News, and the cozy relationship they had with the Bush administration, but even they must admit that such an obvious public relations campaign is not the job of a news network. When asked by the Republican National Committee if ABC would give the RNC a chance to offer its views on the debate, ABC declined. Isn't that convenient. ABC wants us to believe it will remain objective with this mini-series of health care infomercials for the President.

The other side in the debate will be represented by statements such as, "Critics of your plan say this is the first step towards socialized medicine." The President will chuckle and dismiss these claims as partisan rhetoric. He will offer dazzling statistics, complete with charts and graphs, and ABC will interview people with horror stories about the current health care system to back up the President’s case. Dissenting views will be framed as unfounded opinions.

I want to see this debate open to all sides, not the ones handpicked by the media. For all the talk about bailouts, soaring deficits, Guantanamo and Iran, the health care debate reaches out and touches every American. The idea that the public will be sold socialized medicine under the guise of health care reform, all the while aided by a fawning press corps, is unthinkable to me. If you want to socialize America’s health care system Mr. President, then come out and say it.

Call me crazy, call me a right-wing nut, but at the end of the day, Mr. and Mrs. America deserve to know what they are buying. The politicians and the media should not collaborate to sell them something they would never accept if they were fully informed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New media and social networks step in when CNN fails

If you want to see what is happening in Iran in real time, fire up Twitter and Facebook, and listen to and see the people who are at the protests. Fascinating stuff.

You know, you can only oppress people, for so long. After a few generations, the yearning for freedom cannot be contained by government edicts and brutality. I'm not sure the other guy running against Ahmadinejad is any better, but he could hardy be worse, right?

Since real reformers are kept off the ballot by the Mullahs, Mir Hussein Moussavi is most likely "Ahmadinejad Light". But I'll take anyone 1/3 less crazy than regular Mahmoud.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The true cost of "Free Heath Care"

Free health care, who could be against that? Most everyone who has lived under a government controlled heath care system, and that is just for starters.

In the upcoming battle, and it will be a battle, over the "single payer" or "the government option" health care debate, I would like readers to try to use a little logic and reason when they listen to the debate.

The proponents of the government option would like you to believe that in this new system, everyone is covered, no matter who they are, everyone receives our current standard of health care, and "the government" pays for everything, free of charge. This is a fantasy, plain and simple.

I always ask the people who favor these nationalized health care plans to point out where this system is currently working well; they say either Canada or some European nation. It is at this point, the debate is over. They just lost the health care debate, and lost badly.

I could point you to endless studies and testimonials about the real, everyday, life ending and crippling results from these systems, or you could just ask any of the Canadians who travel to America to receive life saving procedures or medicines because they will die waiting for them under a single payer system. It is not that the goal behind the system is flawed, free health care would be great, the problem lies where the idealistic rhetoric collides with the real world. No matter who is paying the bill, the law of supply and demand still drives any health care system.

If everything is free, why not use as much of it as you can? If you make terrible lifestyle choices, smoking, obesity, drug or alcohol abuse, and you receive the same free health care as a person who makes healthy lifestyle choices, what incentives do you have to save the system money by becoming healthier? If the government decides how much money a doctor is "entitled to make", how many people will saddle themselves with hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical school debt to become a government employee? How many drug companies will invest billions of dollars in research and development trials for new, life saving drugs if the government will decide how much profit is "fair"? This is called rationed heath care; it is the how any government controlled heath care works.

In rationed care, if twenty three thousand people are on the waiting list for, let’s say a heart valve replacement, and the government has eleven thousand heart valve replacement surgeries budgeted, the decision as to who receives this life saving treatment is taken from your doctor and given to the person paying the bills. A government worker goes through the list using a government approved actuarial table, and decides who gets the surgery and who gets put back on the waiting list, or worse, who is denied outright because of age or some other factor. Its the same for chemotherapy or life saving medicines. If you think dealing with a private insurance carrier is bad, wait until you deal with a government bureaucracy that has no competition and no accountability.

The government, or any private insurer for that matter, cannot provide unlimited health care to everyone without charging a premium for services, or rationing these "free" services. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you. When you demand real-world details from the government option lobbyist, they will give some vague talking points about a hybrid system that keeps what works and replaces what does not.

It sounds great, but so does a 400 horse power Corvette that runs on coffee grounds and costs $400. The devil is in the details.

You say our current system is broken, I agree. You say health care is too expensive, I agree. You say that the government is going to fix it; this is where you and I part company.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Five weddings and two funerals

"The good news is we are getting married, the bad news is you are doing the ceremony."

I was shocked on two fronts; first that my friend, a professed bachelor, was indeed getting married and the second being the fact I would somehow have to become ordained in time for the ceremony. This phone call from my friend jump started my journey, and with a little help from an online Christian organization, I received my ordination in time to perform the wedding ceremony.

For many of my friends, the thought of me being a Pastor was akin to me being named Mary, Queen of Scots. I am a terrible example of a Christian, and I did not want people to look at my shortcomings and take anything away from God’s glory. I still struggle with this today, but maybe that is why I am here; if people look at my life and think that God can forgive and love this guy, He can surly forgive and love me.

This is how I came to be the "DP" or Designated Pastor for the Capay Valley. I know a few of the churches in the valley, and they have great Pastor's and Ministers; I just wish more of my friends would connect with them.

The harangues from my friends who have known me a long time notwithstanding, I have come to appreciate the position. Since that first wedding ceremony, I have had the honor to officiate four more weddings for friends. I have also been asked to perform a funeral service for a family friend.

All things considered, I like weddings better.

As much joy and celebration one finds at a wedding, eventually, our life here on earth will come full circle. While there is pain and sorrow at a funeral service, it is also a time when everyone must think about their own mortality. They must think about their own life, and take a measure of who they are, comparing that to who they want to be. It can be turning point, a time to rethink priorities, a time to put first things first.

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, our lives are like a vapor in the wind. Not to be morbid, but death is a fate that awaits us all, and it is appointment we hardly ever get to schedule.

Friday, June 12th, I have been asked to perform the funeral service for my friend Ray Bargagliotti. Ray was a fixture in the valley, a family man, and a person who gave of himself always. He will be truly missed.

I will try to keep it together as we remember Ray, but I can’t make any promises.

Services will be at the Capay Cemetery at 11:00AM.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Paper, Plastic, or newsprint?

Talk about irony. The newspaper is running an editorial touting a 25 cent tax on plastic or paper bags.

Seriously, just where do you think all your newspapers go? Unless your town offers a paper recycling bin for home pickup, all those news papers go directly into the landfill. Unless I missed the notice, all my newspapers go into the big gray Waste Management bin for curbside pickup. Oh, the horror!

Yes, that same newsprint and toxic ink head straight into the landfill along with those evil paper grocery bags. How about this? When newspapers go to an online-only format and use zero paper in their newsrooms and offices, then they can lecture me on why I need to pay a tax on my Raley's bags.

Until then, please be quiet, the adults are trying to work here.

Walt Lucas is a sexist pig.

Guilty as charged........

bizzy, bizzy, waich, waich....